It’s been almost fifty years since The Quiller Memorandum, and spy movies have changed quite a bit in the ensuing half-century. It’s unfair to say they’re better or worse nowadays, especially considering the qualification of “spy movie” can mean anything from Skyfall to Syriana to Agent Cody Banks (though, if we’re talking about the latter, then yes: they’re worse). Even the superhero genre is dabbling in spy-ish flicks, with the espionage thriller Captain America: The Winter Soldier drawing favorable comparisons to Three Days of the Condor; Condor, of course, is a spy movie with a main character who is not in fact a spy, nor is he a suave step-ahead killer fighting for what’s right, nor does he even know what’s going on — this all by way of saying that a great “spy” movie doesn’t even need a spy.
But Peter Quiller is a spy, and a damn good one to boot. He’s good by today’s standards, he’s good by the standards of 1966, and he’s good by the standards of his fellow spies in Memorandum. The film opens with a stark, memorable sequence of a man plodding cautiously down a dark, quiet street. He looks around constantly, fearing that the hidden blade might finally come from the shadows. Cautious, quiet. He enters a phone booth and reaches for the receiver when bam! — he’s shot in the back. Dead.
Continue reading The Quiller Memorandum (1966)
Blah blah Agent Carter blah. The second episode of the series (which premiered immediately following the first) was fine — but forget that! The Ant-Man teaser debuted during the commercial! Isn’t that so much more exciting?!
This is how I feel sometimes when I’m watching in-universe Marvel stuff, be it Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or even lesser MCU films like Iron Man 2. Even if the plot at hand is going along smoothly, a heavy-handed mention or knowing wink toward an entirely different Marvel thing places a pothole right in the path. “Bridge and Tunnel” progressed the plot of the pilot episode “Now is Not the End” fairly well, but it had the added obstacle of a teaser for the Ant-Man teaser during every single commercial break. Agent Carter could be one of the most distinct and independent entries in the grander MCU once it gets over the Peggy-and-Cap romance, but not if trailers for trailers and endless winks toward other shows and movies keep getting shoehorned into the middle of it all.
Continue reading Agent Carter 1.2 – “Bridge and Tunnel”
When people say it’s just like a ’70s spy thriller! or if you like ’70s spy thrillers, you’ll love this!, the movie they’re all referring to whether they know it or not is Three Days of the Condor. This is how we measure the influence that the Pollack-Redford political drama has had on our current film industry: in remakes, spinoffs, tributes, allusions, shoutouts and straight-up copies of the original.
Written as the novel Six Days of the Condor by James Grady, the book translated to the screen so well thanks to the the meticulous aplomb of Sydney Pollack and the solid performances of the entire cast. Three Days of the Condor wasn’t written to be an overtly political film, all appearances to the contrary, and according to Pollack and Redford the “thriller” aspect of “political thriller” was the part they tried to emphasize. It worked. Still, the political associations were all but unavoidable in 1975; Watergate was certainly still fresh, but more immediate was the leaking of highly sensitive CIA documents known as the Family Jewels scandal. This occurrence ended up being one of those Hollywood coincidences where a movie gets made about a particular subject and then that particular subject, one day out of the seeming blue, becomes the particular subject of the day’s news. Three Days of the Condor came out too close to the Family Jewels scandal to be able to say anything explicitly about it, but it managed to wrestle with the issue all the same.
Continue reading Three Days of the Condor (1975)